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Reel Time Fishing Northwest

Mark Yuasa covers fishing and outdoors in the Pacific Northwest.

May 18, 2009 at 2:05 PM

Columbia River spring chinook jack returns strong

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While the Columbia River adult spring chinook return struggles to live up to expectations, the jack spring chinook run is at an all-time record high.

“It is already double the all-time record of a little over 24,000 jack spring chinook in 2000, and that was for the entire season, which runs through June 17,” said Joe Hymer, a state Fish and Wildlife biologist. “And we’ve still got more fish to come in the next month or so.”

So far, 47,061 jack spring chinook have returned to the Bonneville Dam fish ladder. Single day counts have been 3,911 on May 17; 3,957 on May 16; 5,712 on May 15; and 2,952 on May 14.

“This is a huge jack return, but what it is gonna mean for any type of fishery structure for next year is still up for debate,” Hymer said. “We’ll we have another nine months before we go through it all over again, and I’m sure there will be lots of talking in between there.”

Chinook returning to the freshwater one or two years earlier than their counterparts, and are commonly referred to as “jacks.”

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Hymer says the bigger question is what happened to the 298,000 adult spring chinook that was supposed to come back this year?

“For some reason these jack spring chinook are not converting into four year old adults the next year and no one is for sure why.”

So far, only 85,713 adult spring chinook have passed up Bonneville. State and tribal fishery managers have downgraded the run size between 120,000 and 150,000. That is half the forecast return of 298,000 adult spring chinook.

(Photos by Mark Yuasa and Mark Harrison, Seattle Times staff)

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